Creative Written Work
Current urban planning often valorizes large scale interventions in the city, reducing the complexity of the street into a mere element for beautification, redirection, or compartmentalization. In doing so, urban planning glosses over the impact that small-scale interventions can have in affecting larger urban metabolisms. This project explores architecture’s capacity to reengage public infrastructure with streetness, which describes the underlying quality and latent situations that occur along the street’s contested territory.
Rights of the Way addresses issues of agency. It delights in the possibility that individuals can control access to urban spaces and author public life. It involves corporate space, like Starbucks, WeWork, and AirBnB, and how individuals can leverage normalized conditions for personal advantage.
Hyper-specific case studies provide a counter to the traditional tendencies of urban planning, where user groups are often identified at the conception of a project. But, by relying on individual situations, the individualized urbanism is able to challenge traditional concepts of access and use of public amenities. These examples begin to inform a set of urban ideals not always fully considered or valued in street planning and serve as prompts for small-scale design interventions in the city. From crosswalk musicals to squatting camper hotels, the life of the city is revealed through the manipulations and exploitations of existing frameworks.
Rights of the Way suspects a future where streetness challenges traditional territories of the street – expanding the streetscape to include elevator shafts in skyscrapers or copy rooms and coffee breaks. It recognizes criticism of failed urbanisms like the Smithson’s “Street in the Sky” or the Garden City movement, where urbanism decontextualized street life at the detriment of public life. Yet, my research explores how the lack of exactitude in street sites actually provides more opportunities to understand situational relationships between the individual and corporate entities in the city.
Lidwin, Mike, "Rights of the Way: Investigations of Streetness" (2020). Haslam Scholars Projects.